Good restau­rant ser­vice no ex­cuse for com­pro­mis­ing kitchen rules

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 11 Comment Editorial • Opinion -

TWO OUT­LETS OF THE hot pot chain Haidi­lao in Bei­jing have been shut down af­ter me­dia re­ports said mice were seen run­ning on their kitchen floor and the table­ware was dumped in a dirty sink with dust­pans. Thep­a­ com­mented on Satur­day:

Haidi­lao re­sponded within hours of the pub­li­ca­tion of the re­ports and of­fered a de­tailed plan to take cor­rec­tive mea­sures. Rather than mak­ing the kitchen staff the scape­goat, it said the man­age­ment would take the bulk of the re­spon­si­bil­ity — an ex­em­plary PR at­tempt to win hearts.

But to many who have al­most un­con­di­tional faith in the hot pot chain, the ex­po­sure of com­pro­mised kitchen con­di­tions comes as a rude shock. The hot pot cater­ing com­pany is more of­ten known for its over­con­sid­er­ate ser­vice than its food. Fe­male cus­tomers wait­ing to get a table could be of­fered a free man­i­cure, and those who for­get to carry an um­brella on a rainy day may have a taxi wait­ing for them be­fore they leave.

Such anec­dotes have branded Haidi­lao as a car­ing com­pany that al­ways puts cus­tomers’ well-be­ing be­fore any­thing. Haidi­lao’s proper, timely re­sponse to the dirty kitchen re­ports is praise­wor­thy, but it makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence to the fact that like many un­der­ground food ven­dors, the hot pot “gi­ant”, too, has dirty kitchens and care­less kitchen staff who refuse to fol­low san­i­tary rules.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar per­cep­tion, Haidi­lao’s cater­ing ser­vice is far from be­ing “im­pec­ca­ble”. On­line pro­mo­tion has be­come a com­mon prac­tice among many restau­rants and food stores, which go to great lengths to lure po­ten­tial cus­tomers and main­tain the reg­u­lar ones. They do not shy away even from ques­tion­able stunts — from hir­ing peo­ple to queue to pay­ing for the en­dorse­ment of on­line opin­ion lead­ers — while pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to the san­i­tary con­di­tion.

So the Haidi­lao man­age­ment should draw a les­son from the bust­ing of its ser­vice myth and take mea­sures to en­sure the kitchen and hy­giene rules are fully im­ple­mented.

TAKE­AWAY GARBAGE, par­tic­u­larly plas­tic pack­ag­ing, is mul­ti­ply­ing in Chi­nese of­fice build­ings and com­mu­ni­ties, rais­ing con­cerns over the dif­fi­cul­ties in dis­pos­ing them. Bei­jing News com­mented on Sunday:

The bur­geon­ing food de­liv­ery ser­vice is a trend to­ward which many have mixed feel­ings. True, it saves busy white-col­lar em­ploy­ees the trou­ble of go­ing out to eat. But to de­liver the food, restau­rants use ex­tra pack­ag­ing made of polypropy­lene, which could be re­cy­cled but is not biodegrad­able.

One may be tempted to blame those peo­ple or­der­ing take­away food and pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. But as long as it is le­gal and paid for, din­ers are free to en­joy the de­liv­ery ser­vice.

The root cause of the in­creas­ing take­away garbage is the lack­lus­ter su­per­vi­sion. Ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tions, non­biodegrad­able ma­te­ri­als can be used for pro­duc­ing pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial so long as they do not con­tain haz­ardous el­e­ments and are in line with food safety stan­dards. As for biodegrad­abil­ity, there is no ex­plicit le­gal guid­ance.

Which re­minds us of the reg­u­la­tion to ban the use of plas­tic bags 10 years ago. Mak­ing con­sumers pay for the plas­tic bags in su­per­mar­kets didn’t stop peo­ple from us­ing them, and very few would know that such bags can take up to 470 years to biode­grade.

Coun­tries that have suc­ceeded in re­duc­ing pack­ag­ing waste have strict laws and su­per­vi­sion on the sub­ject. So China’s en­vi­ron­men­tal au­thor­i­ties need to es­tab­lish higher stan­dards for ma­te­ri­als used in plas­tic meal boxes, sup­port the waste sort­ing and re­cy­cling busi­ness, and pro­vide in­cen­tives to restau­rants that use green pack­ag­ing.

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